Once upon a time there was an old wolf, who was so old that
the few odd teeth that he had in his big deformed mouth wobbled so much that they were desperate to fall out.
He was so old, that he could no longer tear sheep and lambs to pieces.
He survived on the odd old-dried up chicken leg left behind in the bushes by a fox or a polecat. Every now and then he would catch a sick bird, or a mangy rat or another half-dead creature with slobber all over their teeth, and would eat them.
He lived in an old den, dug out under the roots of an oak tree that overlooked the whole plain.
The wolves from the many packs around would call him “Uncle Wolf.” He liked being called “Uncle Wolf”, and would laugh with a half-smile that would almost make him seem reborn and with him his long-lost strength. The young wolves were agile and so full of energy, which would burst out of their powerful brawny muscles, that Uncle Wolf was almost convinced, or better still, certain, that they would never end up like him! Or maybe they would, but when? In a thousand years from now?
He observed them enviously and felt even worse when he watched them from afar as they seized their huge prey and dragged it away to where they would quarrel, dividing up the steaming meat.
The wolves from the pack would call him “Uncle Wolf.”
And “Uncle Wolf” would laugh with a half-smile, so that he would almost seem reborn! He would often say: “If you ever want any advice, my dear wolf grandchildren, I’m always here for you and would be more than happy to help you…” And he would start: ” Confuse the prey and then seize it vigorously and firmly by the neck, the neck! And don’t let go until it’s nice and dead. When it’s nice and dead!”
And one day when the old wolf was gnawing away at a wing he had found, he heard someone calling him: “Uncle Wolf, Uncle Wolf!”
It was a polecat. She was very cunning and very young, with a long snout, and was jumping around exhaustedly. And out of shame, Uncle Wolf hastily buried the wing he had found.
Then, on seeing the polecat, he started to mumble: “Your shrill little voice made me lose an enormous young stag that…damn you; I would have had food for at least a month or more! He’s gone now, I’ll never catch him up!”
“I’m sorry Uncle Wolf, how did I know? Damn, what bad luck; the stag got away, and I could have done with eating a bit as well!”
“Oh yes, of course I would have given you some as well, polecat granddaughter. I’m not a villain, me. Ah, what a stag it was too. I almost had it, you know?”
“I’m sorry Uncle Wolf; I’m mortified”, but meanwhile she was turning her head this way and that, just in case the stag was still on the horizon.
Uncle Wolf scratched his eye with a bald paw.
“Uncle Wolf, I came to offer you a deal…”
Weakened by hunger, Uncle Wolf curled up his snout.
“Lots of sheep and white, white lambs…”
Uncle Wolf opened his sick eyes wide.
“Oh, there is something I must warn you about… before I tell you the details. It’s an understanding between the two of us. Otherwise you know what often happens- you divide up wealth, and it turns into poverty!”
Uncle wolf pretended to be barely listening.
The polecats tiny eyes twinkled like stars on a dark night, and she went on to say: ” An infinity of sheep and tender, tender white, white lambs, all in the middle of a farmyard bleating so loudly that it’s the very sheep and lambs that ask you to eat them…”
“Yes, that’s true! Often it is they who call you!”
“And then when you have them in your grasp and you tear into them, they bleat so much that you almost feel pity for them. Anyway, I’ve counted them; there are thirty nice fat sheep and seven nice little lambs. But there is a but. The farmer’s house is close by. If the house with the farmer in it hadn’t been there, I would have eaten at least one little lamb by now.”
“And as I am so small and can’t do everything on my own, I have come to ask for your help, as I know that you know exactly what to do. You have a lot of experience in these matters!”
“My dear granddaughter, I’m grateful for your offer, but here where I live, I don’t want to… ,but even when things aren’t going for the best, I still manage to skin a nice big hare every three days, I’ve just eaten the last piece, and if you had come earlier I’d have given you some. I have very little strength in my teeth, but talent, I still have a lot of, I can assure you! I have so much talent that I survive quite nicely. Oh yes, talent is valuable, sometimes more than strength”
“Oh yes, I know. That’s why I came to you. I could just as easily have gone to Crooked-Eye fox, who lives in the third den on right paw, going towards the spring; the third den on right paw, the one right next to the olive tree.”
“Who are you talking about? Do I know her? I don’t quite understand where she lives.”
“I’ll tell you…she’s called Crooked-Eye fox because she had…she was shot at and a pellet shattered her eye, and since then she’s had a crooked eye and she lives exactly…her den is…she hasn’t been there long, it’s right by the olive tree where the shepherds hung Broken-Paw wolf.”
“Oh yes, now I know, her den is right under the tree where Broken-Paw wolf was hung. Crooked-Eye fox! But, who the hell were you thinking of contacting!? She can’t see from her snout to her mouth!”
“She can see, oh yes she can see, but from her other eye, and she can see double!
“She’s sly, so sly that she pretends she can’t see so as not to rouse suspicion. I think she’s the most cunning fox in the whole wood, and she’s not even nice to the wolves.”
“Wolves uh? And you call those wolves? We were wolves. Oh yes, Wolves. It doesn’t matter if I’m old, and if it hadn’t been for these damn teeth of mine which wobble about like marionettes then I’d have shown them! It doesn’t matter if I’m old.”
“That’s why I’ve come to you, Uncle wolf. It doesn’t matter if you’re old.”
“Oh yes, they all come to me. Here where I live I catch a nice big stag every three days. Tell me: do you think it’s worth my while? For me to slip into a farmyard stuck between sheep and lambs? Then there’s the farmer. Oh yes, once I used to do these things…”
“You’re right, you’re quite right, but…come on Uncle wolf! We can come to an agreement.”
“If I hadn’t been able to find any food, oh yes, then I’d really do it; hunger won’t listen to any excuses!”
“Well, if that’s the way things are, then I…then I really must go.”
“Wait, I’ve just had an idea; I want to help you, but the fact is that you want to do this in two; that’s where the eggs begin to break! I’m a very good friend of Brigand wolf, and if I…if it were me to ask him, then he would agree. If we divide things between the two or the three of us, what difference does it make? It’s still better than nothing! It just means that we have to steal two or three more sheep, and everything’s fair and square again.”
“Yes, that’s true, but as often happens…you start out dividing riches, and end up with poverty. My tiny little paws are so worn out from searching for food for myself and the others from dusk till dawn, that they no longer support me…the other night I was gnawing away at a rabbit’s neck when I bumped into four friends of mine, and guess what? All I got to eat was an eye; and I even threw that up because it was bitter. Eyes taste bitter. That eye…they threw themselves all over it like savages…and all out of spite! They are no good at finding anything, and when they eat what others have caught, they can never get enough and are nasty!”
“But we are talking about wolves here! And there are thirty nice big sheep and seven nice little lambs! Between the two of us, or three, isn’t it the same thing? My dear granddaughter, are you not forgetting the farmer? I have so much talent that
without the farmer…you are a polecat, what can a polecat do among all those sheep and lambs? I have the talent, tactics and experience. That’s how I manage to catch a nice big stag every three days, and if you had come earlier I would have given you some. Sometimes I have so much stuff left over, that it goes off and starts to smell and I have to bury it; it’s such a pity. Last week a leg of stag this big went off!
As I was saying, I’m happy to be old, my dear granddaughter, but I would be even happier if…that’s for sure, but we all know that we may lose something, but we find something else. I have fifteen years of real wood experience behind me…I can’t tell you how many sheepfolds and hen houses I have raided! I’d go in with my mouth wide open and start on the eggs, and then eat the chickens; I’d have to scoff everything just to annoy the farmer!
I remember once, it was thirteen years ago today! The damn snow was everywhere, so I hadn’t had a bite to eat all night or the next day. I was on my way home with my tangled-up insides, when I heard two or three cock-a-doodle-do’s. I thought: “It must be a hen!” The snow was so deep that I sunk in up to my snout. After a while I worked out that the cock-a-doodle-do’s were coming from inside a house, as the damned farmers were keeping them inside so that they would lay eggs and not freeze to death. I was hungry, so hungry. I hadn’t eaten for two days. I wanted to wait till nightfall as it was safer, but as we all know, hunger has no manners; it hates to wait and with tangled-up insides it becomes rude. I was blind with hunger! I had such sharp teeth and was so strong! Who was this Brigand wolf compared to me?
Very quietly…I was sure, absolutely sure that the cock-a-doodle-do’s were coming from a house: we all know what farmers are like.
I was following the cock-a-doodle-do’s with my trained ear, when I suddenly stood still…and the cock-a-doodle-do’s stopped! I thought: “Damn! Who knows if I’ll get to eat tonight” There was only snow all around.”
“And then, what happened, what happened?”
“Wait. I moved forward a little…no cock-a-doodle-doo’s!” I’m done for!” I thought, “I’ll starve to death like a wretch in this snow! How am I going to get back to my den?” I felt awful.
Fortunately I had, and I still have, a good sense of smell. I snorted with my nostrils and I could smell blood in my nose!
“Someone has just killed a hen! That’s why there is no cock-a-doodle-doing and I can smell blood in my nose!” I thought.
“And then? then what?”
“What happened? What happened was that sometimes your nose helps you more than your ear”
“That’s true. But go on, tell me, tell me”
“I slowly followed the smell of drops of blood. They came from behind a half-open door. I was just about to storm in, as quick as a flash, when I saw a little black man who looked like a beetle coming out with his hands full of feathers, and holding a hen’s head. He walked off, and I thought: “If he’s only holding the head, then surely, but surely I’ll find the…Now’s the right moment to go in!” Quick as a thunder-bolt, I pushed the door open and saw something cooking up above with the headless hen inside it…who knows why it was giving off such a fog, but I jumped up and knocked the thingamajig down with one paw…it was full of loot, but even though it was disfigured I ate the whole thing in three gulps without even batting an eyelid. Damn it was hot, but I scoffed the whole thing inside the farmer’s house! My mouth was smoking and that was the only time I ever ate a scalding chicken. I was about to leave, when I heard another three or four cock-a-doodle-do’s; the farmer came in carrying another hen! Running off I jumped up and grabbed that one as well! I ate it later in the middle of a snowstorm, thinking what a blockhead the farmer had been letting me get away with two hens!
“Ah, my dear polecat granddaughter- I was a real brigand, I was! The wolf I was telling you about is a relative of mine and “A
brigand uncle makes for a brigand nephew” as they say, and I’m so fond of him because he’s very much like me …so how could I ever make a deal without him?
He would be offended. You know how many wolves come to me for advice…
There is a wolf…he often comes to me…his mouth is this big, and his teeth are this big, and his paws are this big…but he doesn’t have much upstairs. I’m teaching him, I tell him to do this and to do that…and after a bit he is so grateful that he brings me…guess what he brought me the other day? All for some advice I gave him…you won’t believe this, but he brought me a leg of wild boar this big!”
“Flippin’heck! You’re joking, aren’t you Uncle wolf? But…but no wolf has ever caught a wild boar before!”
“Joking, me? It’s the truth! He’ll tell you himself…he comes to see me almost everyday, why he might even come as I’m talking to you”
“Listen, nobody has ever. Yes, I know, nobody has ever. But two days ago it happened! He brought a leg of wild boar this big as a present, and if you had come earlier I would have given you some. My advice and a strong wolf…make for a dead boar!”
“What a pity, what a pity!” The poor hungry polecat said, shaking her head. ” If a had come earlier, earlier and even earlier still, I would have had my fill for a month. One whole day and all I’ve had is one egg, and it’s still heavy on my stomach. Who knows where the hen was! Who knows. Baah!”
” If you found the egg, then she must have been around there somewhere…”
“No, Uncle wolf! They are crazy hens who want to brood at all costs, and are scared the farmer will eat the eggs; so they take them far, far away and leave one here and one there. They can’t make a pile, as they can’t remember where they left the egg the day before, and this goes on and on. That’s why you often find the egg, but not the hen.”
The polecat exploded with laughter: ” Ha, ha, ha!” and again: ” Often…the hens lay their eggs here and there, so the farmers
who want eggs at all costs think they are sterile and kill them. You know, there are some hens who want to be mothers at all costs.”
“My favourite hens are the ones… I call “blue-blooded.” They have blue blood…” butted-in Uncle wolf.
” I know, I’m a polecat. I know exactly what you’re talking about. Let me explain: these take all their eggs to one place, day after day, they have some brains upstairs and they are so extraordinary that they frighten me! The others don’t: they just roll eggs all over the place, even the eggs of other hens that haven’t been fecundated…In short, they just cause trouble: it doesn’t benefit anyone: neither themselves, nor the polecats, nor the farmer! On the contrary, the others are amazing, they line the eggs up perfectly, all in one place, so orderly that it’s as if they are in a basket: and they punctually go to brood them…In other words…it’s wonderful! You find a treasure under the hedge that makes your eyes twinkle with glee. You often even find chicks that have just popped out, and don’t know you are a polecat and mistake you for their mummy. So there you are looking at that Godsend, when along comes the hen, sometimes even with a mate…so you crouch down between the wide leaves and wait for them to reach the bushes, when you shoot out and bite into ones neck, and then the others’, you make a hole in their breasts because all the best bits are inside. Then later, in all tranquillity, you eat the eggs and chicks.”
On hearing this, Uncle wolf licked the few teeth that he had left in his big, old mouth, with his fat tongue.”A Godsend”
he started to say, ” A Godsend: paradise under the hedge! But these things only happen once in a blue sun…”
” But, come now Uncle wolf, we’re not recounting our adventures and ignoring our deal, are we?”
” So, yes! There are thirty sheep…like this…nice and fat, and seven nice little lambs…Oh, then there’s the house with the farmer in it…Uncle wolf and the little young polecat…what we need here is Brigand wolf. If I had been hungry I would say:
” Yes, let’s do this thing between the two of us”, as I have so
much strength and my teeth are still good…if I agree, it’s on the condition that…that…Brigand wolf…because I’m a wolf! And not out of hunger. I catch a nice big stag every three days and I’m…” But he realised that she was quite a proud polecat, and so he said: ” Believe me, we need Brigand wolf in on this.”
“Okay, okay”, agreed the polecat. “Let’s do that, maybe it’s best.”
” Listen: So you go and call him, and tell him that Uncle wolf sent you. Tell him to come quickly as well, that there’s loads to eat. If he asks, tell him that you work with me, that I send you out to look for nice things to eat. Don’t say anything else, I know what to do. Now just go.”
“Where do I go…if I don’t know where his den is?”
“Right, yes, right. Well…to get there…Mmm…well you…
“Hey, what’s wrong Uncle Wolf?”
“Damn it…it’s just that thinking makes me nervous…let’s start from Crooked-Eye fox’s den by the olive tree…and don’t forget: don’t say a thing if you meet the fox, she’s half blind and half crazy. It’s best if you don’t say a thing. You get to the den…then you follow…straight after the olive tree on right paw there are lots of oak trees all in a row. Then it’s…(it’s ten wolf steps…) you skip for thirty little wolf steps, still on right paw until you see a great big chestnut-tree stump a bit further over to the left, and under it is a big den- It’s Brigand wolf’s. And don’t forget that it’s dangerous, so don’t go in. Call him from outside and say: “Brigand wolf, Brigand wolf, Uncle wolf has sent me!” and you’ll tell him a bit about the matter. But just a bit. I’ll be waiting for you here. Don’t say much!”
And the polecat very slyly went on her way.
She reached the den and called out: “Brigand wolf, Brigand wolf! Uncle wolf has sent me!”
A very big wolf who was chewing on something, and whose snout was covered in blood came out of the den. The polecat who was a little bit frightened, grew even smaller, greeted him and explained the matter: that Uncle wolf had sent her and that
And so they went.
When Uncle wolf, who was sitting outside his den, saw them approaching he thought back to the things he had already thought about.
“Uncle wolf! Here I am: any orders?”
“Listen. You were sent for because…thirty nice fat sheep and seven little white lambs are waiting to be eaten by us. They are in a farmyard. Has the polecat told you?”
“But there is … the …the…right there…the farmer’s house is nearby, but he’s a half-wit. Just imagine this: the polecat almost made off with a lamb. I thought, only Brigand wolf can help us in this deed, there are so many sheep!” We must act by night with the help of the moon and the stars. This is the plan: first the polecat enters the yard, has a look around and comes back to report to us. Then she goes back, looks again and signals to us, and if we haven’t understood she returns to re-explain, then she goes back and waits for me. And then”, said Uncle wolf, playing the part like a good actor, “I storm in to raid the place, and you Brigand wolf, are to wait outside and keep an eye on the farmer’s house. And as the polecat and I grab the sheep and lambs, we’ll bring them to you to put somewhere safe. It doesn’t matter if I’m old and my teeth are about to fall out; I’m sure I’ll succeed”
The polecat, playing the simpleton, looked at the old wolf and thought: “Who knows…” Brigand wolf didn’t answer. He stared at Uncle Wolf and was quiet for a bit, then said: “Uncle wolf, you are offending me, “Brigand wolf has never kept a lookout!”
Sly as she was, the little polecat sensed something.
Uncle wolf already knew from the start…
And Brigand wolf really was a blockhead.
Playing the part again, Uncle wolf started: “I don’t think I have said anything wrong, on the contrary…I’m…I’m talking for
your sake. I’m old, very old- what have I got to lose? And if…the farmer catches me, do you know what I’ll do? I’ll give him my old age! How many years do I have left to live? So it’s only fair that Uncle wolf takes the all risks! But you Brigand wolf…you take offence! But if that’s the way things stand… and you really insist…I’ll keep an eye on the farmer’s house, and I’ll put the sheep and lambs that you bring somewhere safe. I’m old? What can I do about it? I am old! Let the young perform the bold deeds! But, be careful.”
Brigand wolf was touched and grew even fonder of Uncle wolf, whom he stroked with his paw. The polecat looked on, playing the simpleton and thought: “who knows…but, but…Uncle wolf really does know how to handle things!”
Time flew by and darkness fell, the sky full of stars and some moon. The polecat informed them that it was time to go, so off they set.
Later, they finally came to a halt about three hundred paw steps from the farmyard, and after having observed the area, they conferred again.
Very soon they heard the lambs bleating!
And Uncle wolf rubbed his snout with his bald paw.
And the polecat smiled with a loud jarring of her teeth.
And Brigand wolf mumbled like a fool.
Brigand wolf jumped three or four times to warm up and the polecat did the same, rolling around in a thicket. Uncle wolf noticed, and started giving orders: “Come on, you polecat: let’s go, don’t forget to…. You, Brigand wolf, wait.”
The polecat crept into the yard, brushing through the hedges. And all those delicious things were in there, in that open pen. The polecat stuck out her tongue and licked her little snout. She didn’t see any dogs. The farmer’s house was there, fast asleep- all nice and quiet.
She came back and reported. She went back and signalled, on seeing everything was quiet.
Brigand wolf arrived and dived off a high wall, straight into the pen; the polecat followed.
The wolf started to butcher the sheep and lambs with huge bites, and with the polecat’s help, he dragged them all off, one by one to where Uncle wolf was waiting.
The old wolf thought he was dreaming when he saw the treasure he had before him.
He tried to carry away a big heavy sheep, but when he grabbed hold of it, one of his old teeth fell out. When he realised he couldn’t make it he started greedily eating a lamb.
But all of a sudden a sheep started bleating like mad, the farmer jumped from his bed and into the yard, and started to shoot better than a soldier! Brigand wolf was hit right under his tail, and just as the farmer was taking aim again, the polecat jumped up and dived right between his legs, giving him such a fright that the farmer fell to the ground and almost bent the barrels of his gun.
In the state he was in, Brigand wolf managed to flee, making off with a little lamb, as did the polecat who escaped with an unlucky hen that had been tottering around, in her mouth.
Uncle wolf had already run off on hearing the first bleating, leaving the whole treasure behind and completely forgetting that he was there to keep lookout.
The wolf and the polecat kept on running until they were out of danger, when they stopped to rest.
And after the fright they had had, and all that weariness…they fell asleep. The night passed peacefully and morning came.
Brigand wolf, with his gunshot wound, yawned, while the polecat who had been awake for quite a while, had been thinking: “A nice big stag every three days”…”If you had come earlier I would have given you a bit.”…”The cock-doodle-do’s”…”And you call those wolves?”…
Uncle wolf had swindled them! If everything had gone well…but everything had gone wrong, and he had run away.
So she spoke her mind.
Brigand wolf understood and didn’t, and said: “He’s a poor old wolf, he was frightened.” And then as he was feeling a bit peckish, he took a bite out of the little lamb.
” He got you shot! He can’t even keep lookout!”, the polecat quickly answered; she was sure of what she was saying, jumping around in exasperation and scratching her little snout.
All of a sudden Uncle wolf came out of a bush. “Ah, I’ve found you at last. I’ve been looking for you all night. At last! I went back to where the three butchered sheep and the five little lambs were, because I wanted to take them with me, but I couldn’t find them. I breathed a sigh of relief through my nose, because I thought: “What a wolf Brigand wolf is! He did what I wanted to do- he took the sheep and lambs to a safe place.” What a fright I had with all that shooting! You know it takes a lot to scare me…and fear makes you so hungry…come, let’s divide up the three sheep and the five little lambs. Come on! I’m starving…”
“What are you saying, Uncle wolf?! I didn’t pick up anything from the ground, and the polecat knows nothing either. While I was escaping last night, I took a little lamb from the sheepfold. Look, here it is! And the polecat grabbed a hen. If we really have to, we’ll divide this…”
” This? Are you crazy? There’s nothing left there on the ground!” Uncle wolf kept on.
” The farmer probably took them back.” suggested the polecat.
” The farmer? At that time of night? Brigand wolf, your snout is still dripping with blood! You ate them!”
“I ate them? And tell me, where are the bones? And…how can we have eaten all that already?”
” How should I know where the bones are?! Come on, let’s not play around!”
When the polecat saw the way things were turning out, she started to eat the hen.
“Uncle wolf, I’ll cut off a piece of lamb for you and…” Brigand wolf offered in a conciliatory tone.
” What? ” I’ll cut off a piece of lamb…” to me who catches a nice big stag every three days!”
“… And if you had come earlier I would have given you a bit!”
you certainly know that yarn. You know what I’ll give you, don’t you? The feathers of the hen I’ve just eaten!” And the polecat threw them up in the air. “Here. Feathers! You can write a nice long letter to the farmer with them, and tell him that if all wolves are like you, he needn’t lose any sleep at night!”
” Uncle wolf, I was shot and the farmer, who is not a fool at all, took back his sheep and lambs. This is all I brought from the pen. Do you…want a bit or not?”
“It’s all mine! Compared to what I should have had, it’s as if I have nothing!” Uncle wolf shouted angrily.
” So…so…nothing at all! I’m not giving you a thing! Am I a thief? Yes! Brigand wolf is a thief! But he’s a thief through and through and I’m going to eat my way through this whole lamb!” Saying this he furiously grabbed hold of the lamb and offered a piece to the polecat, who said “No”, she was already full up with hen. He devoured the whole thing in seven mouthfuls, and threw the feathers and skin in the air shouting: ” Take this, it’s your share! I know what part you’re playing! I’m Brigand wolf and I may be uncouth, but I’m not a fool!”
And the wolf and the polecat arrogantly stole away, leaving Uncle wolf all alone with his old age and his bitterness.
But…but, dear readers, these things…Animals don’t do these things! And in telling stories, we often really ill-treat them…